Zero-tolerance policy towards illegal status in Saudi Arabia

May 18, 2013

Foreigners who did not regularise their status in Saudi Arabia will not be given extra time after the end of the grace period, even if they are currently out of the country, the labour ministry has said.

“The grace period given to regularise the irregular situation will not be extended,” Hattab Al Enezi, the spokesperson for the ministry, said. “Therefore, those who are currently out of the country and will come back after the end of the grace period will not be given any extra time,” he said in remarks published by local dailyEl Eqtisadiya on Thursday.

Foreigners staying illegally in Saudi Arabia have been given three months to have their documents regarding their occupation and their residence in order. The move was part of an overall drive to reform the labour market and address growing unemployment rates among the local population and the existence of a marginal work force, mainly unskilled Asians ready to do odd jobs to be able to survive and pay back loans. However, the business community has expressed concerns the three-month grace period might not be enough to tackle the issue. The official insisted that all foreigners had to have their status regularised and that the claims that some professions were exempted from the decision were not true.

Bader Al Malek, the spokesperson for the passports directorate, said that the issue of those expatriates would be related to their professional status and not to their residence “since they have been allowed to leave.” “Such issues are within the decisions to be made by the labour ministry,” he said.

Saudi Arabia is home to around eight million foreigners, mainly in the booming construction sector and in domestic services. Riyadh has also often complained about Muslims arriving in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah or Haj and remaining in the country to take up jobs.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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